The Change of Characters in the Thing Around Your Neck
“The Thing Around Your Neck” is a short story in which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author, presents two characters, Akunna, the main character in the story and Akunna’s boyfriend, also known as The boy in the story. Akunna wins the “American visa lottery” and gets a green card to go live in America. She is an independent woman who went to community college but later drops out due to financial problems. The boy is a rich and wealthy person that pursues Akunna at her job. The boy loves to travel all around the world to meet “real people” of different countries. Akunna and the boy are both dynamic characters because they undergo important changes that help shape their character’s well. Throughout the story, the characters undergo different emotions, their personality changes and their views on America also changes. The Thing Around Your Neck is a short story about a young woman struggles in America.
The story begins with the main character whose name is Akunna, last name unknown in the story, wins an American visa lottery and got the chance of coming to America, to live the American Dream and to support her family back home. Akunna begins her life in the United States by staying with her aunt and uncle that treated her good. Her uncle enrolled her in a local community college, and he showed her how to “apply for a cashier job at a gas station on Main Street”. Akunna’s character suddenly changed when her uncle begins to sexually abuse her. He “grabbed her buttocks” and said to her that “he will do many things for her if she allows him”, she refused and planned to move out. Due to the harassment, she moved from Maine to Connecticut to look for a new life. Suddenly she became unhappy, lonely, and sad because she had no friends or family in America whom she can rely on. She walks into a local restaurant and asked the manager “Juan” that “she will work for two dollars less than the other waitresses”, but the manager paid her a dollar less. Although she was still unhappy, Akunna still has a job which will keep her occupied. Akunna became completely lonely but she couldn’t tell her family what is happening to her because she has no means of communication to communicate with them.
Due to the financial problems Akunna faced, she was faced to drop out of the community college. She became lonely, isolated, and alienated from other people. One day at her work, a white man came to her restaurant. According to the story, the boy is a “wealthy” person that drop out of college to “find himself”. The boy loves to travel all around the world to meet “real people” of different countries. He also loves to correct people about their culture. He visited Akunna’s workplace every time and talks to her about her hometown. He asked Akunna a series of questions such as whether Akunna “was a Yoruba or Igbo” because she does not have a “Fulani face”. He brags to Akunna that he has been to “Ghana and Uganda and Tanzania” and “loved the poetry of Okot p’Bitek and the novels of Amos Tutuola”. At first, Akunna believes he was a professor at a university but soon realized that the boy loves to travel and that is why he knows about Africa a lot. Akunna asked him why he “hasn’t graduated yet” and the boy reply “he has taken a couple of years off to discover himself and travel, mostly to Africa and Asia”. This shows that the boy is from a wealthy family which surprised Akunna because she didn’t know that people in America can drop out of school and travel, which is different from Africa because education is the most important key to success.
In terms of worldviews, both Akunna and the boy’s view of America are both different and similar. At first, Akunna believed that everyone in America had a car and a big gun, and when she comes to America, she also will be able to buy a car and a gun. Everything she taught was real was the exact opposite of what it is. Although America is place considered by many people as the “Land of Opportunity”, Akunna views on America suddenly changed when came here. As of the boy, his worldview of America is different from Akunna because he already lives in America and also, he was born into a wealthy family and as a result, he hasn’t really experienced the pain and suffering Akunna went through. At first, the boy keeps buying gifts for Akunna because he believes it is the right thing to do for her girlfriend. Akunna became uncomfortable with her boyfriend to keep buying her gifts and she told him to stop buying her gifts that are not useful. Their worldviews are similar because both Akunna and the boy enjoying talking about different topics that they both are familiar with, for example, the boy talks a lot about Lagos, where Akunna comes from and she seemed to be surprised that the boy knows a lot about Lagos. Akunna began to feel less lonely and sad because she now has a boyfriend that is always there for her and can rely on him for the support that she might need.
Akunna’s life became even worse when she heard that her father has passed away and she needed a way to get back to Nigeria to attend his funeral and to pay her last respect to her father. Akunna became even sadder after hearing the news. She wrote a letter to her family and included some America money in it. Akunna and her boyfriend both went to an African market and Akunna prepared “garri and onugbu soup” but her boyfriend “threw up in your sink”. Although her boyfriend loves her, he hasn’t really get used to the African food, thus making him threw up in the sink when he ate the food. The boy loves to correct people and “once, at Chang’s, he told the waiter he had recently visited Shanghai, that he spoke some Mandarin.” Akunna became upset with her boyfriend when the waiter asked him, “You have a girlfriend in Shanghai now?”. The boy “smiled and he said nothing.” Her boyfriend traveled to some major countries in the world, and as a result, he knows about other countries history and he is able to impress Akunna, Akunna, on the other hand, has only stayed in Nigeria and America and she doesn’t really know much about another country. Because of this, the boy has more advantages in life than Akunna because of his experience in life.
At night Akunna often feels alone, isolated, displaced and alienated from other people, some night “something would wrap around your neck, something that very nearly choked you before you sleep”. Due to her struggles in America, Akunna begins to doubt that her view on America and the American Dream are the exact opposite of what she taught it was when she was in Lagos. Instead of earning huge money and buying “big houses and gun” within few months, she goes through a lot of major sufferings which sometimes “made her felt invisible and tried to walk through your room wall into the hallway, and when you bumped into the wall, it felt bruises on your arms.” Akunna often lives in a reality versus illusion world, where she sometimes believes that what she is going through is all illusion and none of them are real but when she pumped into the hallway wall, she suddenly gets back to reality.
In conclusion, Akunna and her boyfriend’s character changes as the story continues, at first Akunna felt happy that she has a chance to come to America and to live the American Dream, but her dream suddenly changed when her uncle began to sexually abuse her, and thus making her leave her uncle’s place and seeking a place in Connecticut, where she met a white by the name of “the boy” in the story, he can be described as a rich person who dropped out of college “to find himself”. He and Akunna became boyfriend and girlfriend. He often bought Akunna gifts, but she declined them by saying he should only buy gifts that are “useful”. Akunna heard that her father has passed away and her boyfriend offered to pay for two tickets so they both can go. Akunna refused and went to Nigeria alone, although the story didn’t justify whether she will return back to America or not, I believe she may return back to America depending on what will happen in Nigeria and also at his father’s funeral. The boy will probably wait for his girlfriend whenever she comes back to America because he loves her and hopes to see her again before her green card expires.
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